The Chronicle Meet Ami Davies, the tech entrepreneur helping parents monitor their children
Original Article by The Chronicle (https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/business/business-news/meet-ami-davies-tech-entrepreneur-12518237)
An idea inspired by her daughter has seen tech entrepreneur Ami Davies catch the eye of royalty. Jonathon Manning meets her to discuss parenting, wearable tech and hard work.
A moment when she thought she had lost her daughter was the inspiration Ami Davies needed to make the leap into starting and developing her own technology business.
Previously a self employed trainer working with organisations such as Newcastle City Council, Northern Rock and Sky, she has spent the last four years developing My Little Explorer, an app which uses a wristband to monitor if your child has wondered away from you.
The tracking software is designed to help parents keep an eye on their children, while giving them freedom to move around, and was inspired by a frightening experience she had with her own child.
“I lost sight of my little girl once in a shop and I had that moment of extreme panic,” she says. “Because of the media you are aware of the extreme things that can happen to your child.
“She was actually under a clothing rail right next to me. I found her relatively quickly.”
My Little Explorer uses wearable technology, in the form of a wristband given to the child, to alert parents if their child strays too far away.
The app is designed to be used with children aged between one and five years old. While the use of tracking technology may seem excessive for children of such a young age, Ms Davies believes it adds peace of mind for parents who have had similar experiences of losing sight of their child.
As part of a market research exercise Brand Ami – My Little Explorer’s parent company – conducted a survey of 100 parents that recorded some interesting results. While many parents said that children between one and five years old should not need to be tracked, 90% of those surveyed also admitted that their child had wandered off at some point and caused them significant stress and anxiety.
Ms Davies is keen to stress, however, that My Little Explorer should not replace parenting but used as a safety aid.
“You don’t put your child in arm bands, pop them in the pool, and leave them,” she adds. “You have to keep monitoring them.
“Instead of having your child on reins you can give them more age appropriate freedom. It’s a safety aid not a replacement for parenting.”
The idea has already caused a stir in the business world after it was selected as one of three winners at the Duke of York’s Pitch@Palace event in Sunderland earlier this month.
The event saw 14 tech startups present three-minute business pitches to Prince Andrew at the Sunderland Software Centre. Having wowed the Duke, Ms Davies has now been invited to attend a business boot camp at St James’s Palace.
The boot camp will give businesses like Brand Ami the chance to network with other tech firms in the hope of developing new ideas or features that can be added to products.
Because of the fast paced nature of the tech scene, many people often feel out of place when starting their first business but despite the challenges Ms Davies says she loves working in Newcastle’s tech sector.
One of the initial issues she faced when starting the business was getting to grips with a market based around such new technology.
“This is a really interesting part of the journey,” Ms Davies says. “I was warned it would take two years at best.
“Because it’s a new market, you don’t even know the questions you need to ask to find the people you need to work with. We have had a lot of conflicting advice from consultants but amazing support from business support organisations in the North East like the NE BIC, Sunderland Software City and RTC.”
Despite the support available to tech businesses, My Little Explorer still faces a major challenge due to how new the technology is.
She adds: “This tech wasn’t in the market at all at the time. When you say wearable technology, people still don’t really know what that means.”
Awareness of wearable tech in the fitness industry is increasing awareness of such products and Ms Davies has secured initial seed investment and then then managed to secure £60,000 proof of concept funding through Newcastle-based venture capital company Northstar Ventures.
My Little Explorer is now looking to finalise its third round of investment and, should all go to plan, the product is set to launch before the Easter holidays. With the planned launch date creeping steadily closer, many of the final features of the product have now been completed.
One feature is the inclusion of a book that can be read to children to help them understand what they should do if they go missing and the importance of the wristband. The product will initally be marketed at parents, priced at £49.99.
Ms Davies also understands that the product needs to be adaptable for each parent’s comfort and situation. One major feature of the device is that parents can set the distance that triggers the alert, meaning it can be altered for different activities and places.
“We are going to offer a range of up to 30m,” she explains. “In my mind if you are having a picnic at the park or your family is having a kick about with a football you don’t want it going off constantly so you need to be able to adapt it to the environment you’re in.
“If you’re in a theme park or a high footfall shopping centre you would want to be alerted in a much shorter period of time because of the density of people.
“You want to know they are in a safe distance from you but you want them to carry out activities without it being an annoyance. Once the alert is triggered your mobile phone will beep or vibrate.”
My Little Explorer has one major competitor, which is looking to enter the UK market from the US. Ms Davies believes that the addition of features like the book and pre-recorded alerts will help differentiate the product once it hits the market.
But much of My Little Explorer’s success will depend on it becoming a leader in this new market. To do this she is focusing her efforts on marketing, getting people to subscribe to updates on the business’s website, as well as follow My Little Explorer on Twitter.
“What we really need to do is get to market as our brand is so strong,”she explains. “Just like Pampers is the go-to brand for nappies, we want to be the Pampers in our marketplace.”
Although My Little Explorer will be sold initially to individual consumers online, Ms Davies has also looked at other markets to increase the business’s revenue streams. As well as engaging in discussions with retailers to sell My Little Explorer in shops, Brand Ami is also looking to strike deals with other businesses that have to deal with large crowds of people.
“We have had various conversations with big brands and we understand there is a need for this product. We are talking to theme parks and shopping centres.
“With theme parks if someone loses their child they leave with a negative experience of that day.”
Ms Davies has also made sure that the app can support up to eight different wristbands, which will also allow the product to target the nurseries and schools market. While Ms Davies is making waves in Newcastle’s tech scene she is still a mother and this is what has inspired her to launch her business and her new career.
“I am doing this because I am a parent and I am passionate about it,” she adds. “It’s not about the money for me, I want to change millions of people’s lives.”